James Vowles reveals broken cake tins hurt Williams’ tyre degradation during F1 Belgian GP

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Photo Credits: Williams Racing

Williams Racing arrived in Spa-Francorchamps with the expectation of being able to fight with their rivals and even battle for points. Instead, the team suffered severe degradation and Team Principal James Vowles explained in his race debrief ‘Vowles Verdict’ how a broken ‘cake tin’ was all it took to ensure there would be no icing on the cake in the form of points at the conclusion of a race a weekend that had seemed to promise so much.


Alex Albon once again showed a pace which confirmed the form he is in and why he is Williams Racing’s better chance for points on any given race weekend. However, having made some good overtakes the tyre degradation in his third stint was such that he needed to make an unexpected third pitstop which ensured he eventually crossed the finish line in P14.


Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance a Williams Racing had previously revealed through the team’s press release: “The third stint was much more difficult with higher tyre degradation than expected, in part due to racing hard with the quicker Alpines. We opted to make a third stop, which led to some more overtaking but a frustrating result.”

Following on from this, Team Principal James Vowles has now shed more light on the issue in his most recent ‘Vowles Verdict’.


“What caused the degradation issue wasn’t anything that we would have learned in any of the practice sessions.” explained Vowles in response to a fan’s question as to whether the reduced running due to a sprint weekend had prevented the issue being planned for. “It’s actually a problem that happened in the race. At the end of the race when we took all the wheels off, you have carbon surrounds which different teams called different things they can be called ‘cake tins’ or ‘nozzles’ but really what they are is they’re trying to control the flow of the very hot brake disc temperature into the tyre and what you want is really to get rid of all of that warm air and push it out the back of the car but our cake tins were broken.


“Broken probably during a pit stop but it’s very difficult to pinpoint exactly where. What I can tell you is I’m fairly convinced that that’s part of the reason why we suddenly had very significant degradation and why the beginning of the race looked almost so different to the end of the race and why we had to go to a three stop,” concluded Vowles on the matter.


Such an issue has a huge impact on the performance of the car and not just aerodynamically. The fact that the temperature control of the rear tyres was not able to be at the level the team expected ensured that tyre degradation would be at an accelerated level compared to their rivals. Vowles also confirmed that the team knew they were the only ones suffering such an issue.

“When we stopped for the third time, we knew no one else was stopping, we knew we were in trouble.”


Clearly a missed opportunity for Williams Racing ahead of the summer break. A race which had the team’s cars showing a pace early on that surely would have had them in contention for points. A fact remarked on by Vowles in his recent analysis.

“I think you saw the evidence of it from certainly Alex and Logan early on, there was points on the table. Just a normal race without that degradation there was points available to us and I think you would have seen it map out to a certain extent like it had other ones, but you could already see on the different tyres that we were becoming more and more different to the competition. Others could do 22 laps and we could barely do 16 without a problem and I think that really changed the result.”


The result from those around them in standings saw Williams Racing remain in P7 tied on 11 points. However, Scuderia AlphaTauri gained ground as Yuki Tsunoda’s finishing position of P10 brought a much-needed point the way of the Faenza-based team. With Daniel Ricciardo also having returned to F1 with a point to prove, Red Bull Racing’s sister team could certainly be a team to watch after the summer break and momentum is on their side as they look to climb the table.


As for Williams Racing, by Vowles’ own admission, he expects his team to struggle in the Netherlands when racing resumes after the summer shutdown but then conversely feels that the following race in Monza ‘could be one of the best races for us of the season so far’. One thing is certain, even if the team set to win both championships is already a foregone conclusion for many – step forward Red Bull Racing – it is very much the battles elsewhere on the grid which are closely contested and unpredictable enough to keep fans entertained for the remainder of the season.


The Belgian Grand Prix obviously didn’t work out how Williams Racing wanted but now they will regroup and use this summer break to come back refreshed and ready for battle. That is certainly not a phrase that could have been said the last few seasons and is a clear reminder of just how far Williams Racing has come with James Vowles at the helm.

“The biggest takeaways for me so far is that we have already in the short period of time that I’ve been here shown the world that we’re able to put performance on the car and we’re able to deliver results and take the points that have been available to us at nearly all the events,”